WASHINGTON, D.C. – The top Republican on the House Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee Mike Kelly (R-PA) delivered the following opening statement at a Subcommittee Hearing on How the Tax Code Subsidizes Hate.
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Remarks as delivered:
“I don’t know of a better position to be in in Congress than to be able to sit by you, talking about things that really go the heart and soul of America. You certainly have experienced it first-hand and have been a champion your whole life to be aware of all this. I thank you so much for being here.
“Also, I want to thank our witnesses – especially Dr. Acosta, Mr. Wolf, Mr. Binkley. What you and your families have gone through, this horrific experience you have had. The loss of a loved one, the loss of somebody so close to you that you can’t imagine how you get through the next day. And as Abraham Lincoln often said, I am driven to my knees when encountering these types of experiences. I want to thank you for being here and for sharing with us what we need to hear from you.
“I also want to join with Mr. Lewis, Mr. Neal, Mr. Brady, and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to strongly condemn and renounce any groups with racists, bigoted, and discriminatory views that undermine the very fabric of this democracy.
“And beyond that, as a Member of Congress and a Member of this Committee, I want to condemn any group that would advocate for or incite violence in the furtherness of spreading their hateful ideas. In fact, I imagine that everyone in this room, not just everybody up here, but everybody in this room shares the same view: how did we get to this point in our country; how did we sink this low?
“We’re always on a slippery slope when it comes to how we would handle this situation. Because often, the change has to take place in the hearts and the souls of the very people who are inciting this hate, who are making these hateful statements and doing these horrible things. We can all agree that groups who use or incite violence should not receive tax-exempt status. And to do so should be fully prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
“Speech that incites violence, however, is not protected by the First Amendment. We can all unite around the belief that racist and discriminatory abuse are repulsive and strongly denounce it. And I understand and share that desire to limit such offensive and disgusting views.
“Often times, when we have things like this that come up, and when look into and we say why don’t we look into our past and ask what we should be doing right now in the present. If I could quote from James Madison, Federalist 51 – I want you think about this and the time it was written and why it was said. ‘If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. If framing a government which was to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the very next place oblige it to control itself.’
“The question is not whether we believe that this type of speech should exist, the question is what is their limit on government, and what can we do as a united people to change the efforts of some of these hateful people.
“Chairman Brady talked very clearly about the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. That’s a neighborhood that my mother grew up in. And we look at what has gone on across our country. For most of us we sit back and we recoil and we say this is not who we are. This is not who we ever were. This is why we die every day all over the world to defend the freedom and liberty of other people. We’re willing to do that. In our own country, this is fomenting and reaching a level now that I think we all have to take a good long look at and say what can we do? Since angels do not govern us, what can we do as men, and what can we do as a government, to fulfill the needs that we face today and the obligations that we have.”